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House of Commons Hansard
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Prison Accommodation
01 March 2010
Volume 506
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To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what estimate he has made of (a) prison capacity and (b) the prison population in each of the next 12 months; and on what assumptions such estimates are based. [317693]

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By the end of 2009 the total useable operational capacity of the prison estate was 85,986.

The Ministry of Justice aims to increase prison capacity to 96,000 places by 2014 through the prison capacity programme. These places are being provided through the building of new prisons as well as expansion of existing ones and more effective use of the estate. Over 3,600 new places will be delivered in 2010 and around 1,400 new places in 2011.

Capacity estimates are subject to change due to the number of existing prison places which may need to be taken out of use in the future for maintenance purposes. The precise numbers and delivery timings of new prison places will also depend on construction schedules and prioritisation within the prison estate.

The Ministry of Justice produces annual projections of the prison population, most recently in August 2009. These project the prison population under three different scenarios, based on different assumptions about future sentencing trends: the medium scenario assumes no increases or decreases in custody rates or determinate sentence lengths. The high/low scenarios reflect a 1 per cent. annual increase/decrease in custody rates and a 0.5 per cent. increase/decrease in the average (determinate) custodial sentence lengths.

Other impacts included in the projections, such as those of legislation and processes, are applied equally to all scenarios. These cover the anticipated effect of policy and process initiatives that have agreed implementation timetables. These assumptions and anticipated effects have remained unchanged since last year projections.

The requested information is shown in the following table:

Monthly values of projected prison population for high, medium and low scenarios February 2010-February 2011

High

Medium

Low

February 2010

83,600

83,100

82,500

March 2010

84,800

84,200

83,500

April 2010

85,000

84,400

83,600

May 2010

85,000

84,300

83,400

June 2010

85,700

84,900

83,900

July 2010

86,600

85,700

84,700

August 2010

86,400

85,500

84,400

September 2010

86,700

85,700

84,400

October 2010

86,800

85,700

84,400

November 2010

87,300

86,100

84,800

December 2010

85,600

84,400

82,900

January 2011

86,500

85,200

83,600

February 2011

86,800

85,400

83,700

Notes:

1. All numbers rounded to the nearest hundred and are end of month figures.

2. The prison population is influenced by diverse factors that can mean that the actual future prison population may not be the same as that projected:

changes in sentencer behaviour, policy decisions and the criminal justice process, which can respond to a multitude of environmental factors such as high profile criminal cases and public debate;

implementation of new policies and processes without a timetable, or for which a quantitative assessment of the impact is currently not possible;

unknown future policy, process and political changes.

More details on the projections may be found in the latest published bulletin, “Prison Population Projections 2009-2015” Ministry of Justice Statistics Bulletin, 28 August 2009. This is available at the following webpage:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/prisonpopulation.htm